Early childhood policy

The latest material added to the Australian Institute of Family Studies library database is displayed, up to a maximum of 30 items. Where available online, a link to the document is provided. Many items can be borrowed from the Institute's library via the Interlibrary loan system.

See more resources on Early childhood policy in the AIFS library catalogue

The interface of the national Australian curriculum and the pre-Year 1 class in school : exploring tensions.

Petriwskyj A, O'Gorman L and Turunen T
Australasian Journal of Early Childhood v. 38 no. 1 Mar 2013: 16-22
The Australian state-based educational system of a national school curriculum that includes a pre-Year 1 Foundation Year has raised questions about the purpose of this year of early education. A document analysis was undertaken across three Australian states, examining three constructions of the pre-Year 1 class and tensions arising from varied perspectives. Tensions have emerged over state-based adaptations of the national curriculum, scripted pedagogies for change management, differing ideological perspectives and positioning of stakeholders. The results indicate that since 2012 there has been a shift in constructions of the pre-Year 1 class towards school-based ideologies, especially in Queensland. Accordingly, positioning of children, parents and teachers has also changed. These results resonate with previous international indications of 'schooling' early education. The experiences of Australian early adopters of the curriculum offer insights for other jurisdictions in Australia and internationally, and raise questions about future development in early years education.

The three year old social and emotional well-being check is good news.

Kowalenko N
Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry v. 46 no. 10 Oct 2012: 928-931
In 2011, the Australian Government announced it would expand the existing Healthy Kids Check for 4-year old children to screen for mental illness and to include 3-year old children as well. Though many questions need to be answered about the scope and service support of this initiative, this article argues that the Healthy Kids Check is a good start in early intervention.

Healthy Kids Check : lack of transparency and misplaced faith in the benefits of screening.

Jureidini J and Raven M
Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry v. 46 no. 10 Oct 2012: 924-927
In 2011, the Australian Government announced it would expand the existing Healthy Kids Check for 4-year old children to screen for mental illness and to include 3-year old children as well. This article critiques conflicting claims about the intentions and scope of the revised health check, the benefits of mental health screening in such young children, and, more broadly, the benefits of population screening at all.

Providing a Sure Start : how government discovered early childhood

Eisenstadt N
Bristol, UK : The Policy Press, 2011.
"This book tells the story of Sure Start, one of the flagship programmes of the last government. It tells how Sure Start was set up, the numerous changes it went through, and how it has changed the landscape of services for all young children in England. [It offers an] insight into the key debates on services for young children, as well as how decisions are made in a highly political context..."

Supporting parents, supporting children - a Victorian early parenting strategy: for early parenting services providing specialist support to vulnerable children and families from pregnancy to pre-school : 2010 - Stage 1, building the foundation for change

Victoria. Dept. of Human Services
Melbourne, Vic. : Children, Youth and Families Division, Dept. of Human Services, 2010.
The 'Supporting parents, supporting children: a Victorian early parenting strategy' (VEPS) was developed by the Victorian Department of Human Services in partnership with the state's early parenting centres. It aims to improve service approaches to better meet the needs of vulnerable children and their families across the state. This report outlines stage 1 of this strategy and provides a framework for establishing a statewide platform for change. It explains the policy and legislative context, drivers for change, guiding principles and key focus areas, and how it will be implemented.

Lessons from the UK Sure Start Programme

Katz I and Valentine K
Sydney : Social Policy Research Centre, 2009.
The Sure Start programme in Great Britain aims to improve the outcomes of children in disadvantaged areas. Rather than targeting individual children, it focuses on the importance of families and neighbourhoods in child development. The Sure Start model is now being redeveloped, with Sure Start Local Programmes are to become Children's Centres, servicing all communities and not just focused on early childhood. This report was commissioned to investigate the policies and research behind this redevelopment, and to consider their relevance for Australia. The report also looks at other international program models. Research for this report was undertaken in the UK in April 2005 and in Australia between October 2005 and February 2006.

Tensions and challenges in Australia's early years field: views from the inside.

Cortis N and Head B
11th Australian Social Policy Conference : An Inclusive Society Practicalities and Possibilities : 8-10 July 2009. Sydney, NSW : Social Policy Research Centre, 2009: 14p
Traditionally private responsibilities for mothers and families, early childhood health, development and care have emerged as legitimate objects of public policy in contemporary welfare states. But despite renewed public interest and commitment, the early years field in Australia remains complex and contested. With the sector considered poorly co-ordinated and under-resourced compared with many other wealthy countries, the next stage of attempted reform may risk exacerbating a series of system-level tensions and challenges. In this paper, the authors use interview findings to take stock of early years policy in Australia, identify some current challenges, and outline some principles for change. They show that while developments in the field have been spurred by advances in research evidence, sustained advocacy and the renewal of government commitment, progress remains compromised by unresolved tensions around the goals and vision of the system, fragmented system design, unsustainable resourcing, and an unstable service delivery workforce.

Belonging, being & becoming: the early years learning framework for Australia.

Council of Australian Governments, Australia. Dept. of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations
Canberra, A.C.T. : Dept. of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations for the Council of Australian Governments, 2009.
This framework was developed by the Council of Australian Governments to assist educators to provide young children with opportunities to maximise their potential and develop a foundation for future success in learning. It supports the goals of the Council of Australian Governments, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, and The Melbourne Declaration on Education Goals for Young Australians. This document explains the vision of the framework, the five principles that underpin the use of the framework in practice, and the five learning outcomes for children from birth to 5 years old. These are: Outcome 1, Children have a strong sense of identity; Outcome 2, Children are connected with and contribute to their world; Outcome 3, Children have a strong sense of wellbeing; Outcome 4, Children are confident and involved learners; and Outcome 5, Children are effective communicators.

Influences on politicians' decision making for early childhood education and care policy. What do we know? What don't we know?

Brown K, Sumsion J and Press F
Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood v. 10 no. 3 Sep 2009: 194-217
This paper presents a case for research to investigate politicians' policy decision making processes in early childhood education and care (ECEC). The policy decisions of politicians affects the quality of formal ECEC provisions. This article is a review of the literature relevant to influences on political decision making, such as politicians' perceptions and role in decision making. Subjectivity, discourse, power, cultural fields, context and time may also play an important role in influencing politicians' policy decision making, as does the gender of the politician. The literature review was confined to politicians, bureaucrats and/or policy advisors. The authors conclude that they cannot draw accurate conclusions about the early childhood field from the literature available as very little research explores political influence involving politicians as participants, and even less on politicians as participants on early childhood policy issues specifically, locally or internationally.

Doing better for children

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
Paris : OECD, 2009.
This book compares child well-being and child welfare policies across the OECD nations, including Australia. Topics include the OCED child well-being indicators, social spending across the child's life cycle, the effect of single parent families, timing of exposure to family structure, intergenerational mobility and inequality, prenatal care, child migrants, parental leave, parental time investment, and policy recommendations. Statistics include infant mortality, child poverty rates, income, overcrowding, educational achievement, breastfeeding rates, physical activity, youth suicide, adolescent births, bullying, enrolment rates in child care, education spending, financial support, intergenerational earnings, family structure, and correlations between child well-being indicators. The book also discusses the multi-dimensional measures of child well-being and why the specific indicators have been selected, which fall into domains concerning material well-being, housing and environment, education, health, risk behaviours, and quality of school life.

Parenting education and support policies and their consequences in selected OECD countries.

Shulruf B, O'Loughlin C and Tolley H
Children and Youth Services Review v. 31 no. 5 May 2009: 526-532
This paper reviews parenting support and education policies and key government funding initiatives in eight OECD countries - the UK, Netherlands, Canada, Ireland, the US, Finland, Australia and New Zealand. The article starts by looking at an overview of the features of financial support for parenting, then looks at the policies relating to parent education and support. It compares the financial support of the different countries, and the similarities and differences across authorities. The authors then evaluate the effectiveness of parenting support programmes, looking at parents' views and linking parenting policies and child outcomes. The paper concludes by suggesting that there has been an increasing focus by governments in the past ten years, on parenting and parenting support. However, none of the countries reviewed has a specific policy targeting parents and their support and education entitlements. It concludes with recommendations for policy makers and programme developers.

Investing in the early years - A National Early Childhood Development Strategy

Council of Australian Governments
Canberra : Council of Australian Governments, 2009.
'Investing in the Early Years' - the National Early Childhood Development Strategy - was endorsed by Council of Australian Governments on the 2nd June 2009. The strategy is a collaborative effort between the Commonwealth and the state and territory governments to ensure that by 2020 all children have the best start in life to create a better future for themselves and for the nation. This document sets out the vision and framework of the strategy, as well as the implementation approach and evidence base. The strategy aims to help all levels of government to build a more effective and better coordinated national early childhood development system and the health, safety, early learning and wellbeing of children from before birth to aged eight years.

Early childhood services in the OECD countries: review of the literature and current policy in the early childhood field

Bennett J
Florence Italy : UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre, 2008.
The research literature and policies on early childhood education and care in OECD countries are reviewed under the following themes: the rights and well-being of young children; the social context of children's services; the rationale for state investment in early childhood services; and the early childhood promise and country responses at the system level. The conclusion discusses the various models for delivering early childhood services, and proposes a dynamic social market model that combines the dynamism and choice of the free market with the strong investment, effective control and equity in access that public systems have traditionally offered.

The economics of early childhood policy: what the dismal science has to say about investing in children

Kilburn M and Karoly L
Santa Monica, CA : RAND Corporation, 2008.
"Scientific discoveries over the past two decades have transformed the way in which researchers, policymakers, and the public think about early childhood ... Several recent reports have been particularly helpful in translating research findings into practical information that improves policy. This paper summarizes the contributions from the field of economics, which has played an increasingly prominent role in recent discussions about early childhood policy. The insights from economics also have broader implications for social programs focused on prevention, especially during childhood, rather than later-in-life remediation."

A research paper to inform the development of An Early Years Learning Framework for Australia.

Victoria. Office for Children and Early Childhood Development, Victoria. Dept. of Education and Early Childhood Development
Melbourne : Office for Children and Early Childhood Development, Dept. of Education and Early Childhood Development, 2008.
This Research Paper will inform the work being undertaken on the development of the Early Years Learning Framework. It includes: A discussion about how the Early Years Learning Framework can be a distinctively Australian document; A summary of research about the importance of the early years; The identification of possible core components of an effective Early Years Learning Framework; A discussion of how professionals, families, children and communities could approach practice using the Early Years Learning Framework; Examples of some practices in action; A discussion on recent research on the learning outcomes and content knowledge in early years education and care; Information about how an Early Years Learning Framework could support children's and families' transitions within early childhood services and to school; and Identification of additional matters to be considered in the development of the Early Years Learning Framework.

National Early Childhood Development Strategy: report to the ECD Subgroup of the Productivity Agenda Working Group, COAG

Boston Consulting Group, Council of Australian Governments. Early Childhood Development Steering Committee
Canberra : Dept. of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, 2008
International research shows that investment in basic early childhood services more than pays for itself, yet Australia is some way off from fully exploiting this opportunity to improve its early childhood environment. This report presents a vision for early childhood policy and services for 2020, and considers how this vision can be achieved.

Implementing the government's promises on early childhood.

Cahir P
Every Child v. 14 no. 1 2008 6-7
The Rudd Government's preschool education commitment is to provide 15 hours of preschool for all four year olds at no extra cost to parents, for a minimum of 40 weeks, delivered by degree qualified early childhood teachers. Its commitment includes the development of a play based early years learning framework that focuses on pre literacy and pre numeracy skills. This article argues that high quality early childhood education can be achieved and maintained only through the employment of well qualified and well compensated staff. It also argues that the government's preschool commitment can be successfully achieved in both long day care centres and preschools.

Labor's plan for early childhood: election 2007 policy document.

Rudd K, Macklin J, Roxon N and Smith S
Canberra, ACT : Australian Labor Party, 2007
Research shows that investment in the early years yields a high rate of individual achievement, productivity and participation. Despite the clear social and economic benefits of investing in high quality early education and care, Australia's investment in early education is the lowest of all developed nations. This paper sets out federal Labor's plan to address this deficit and provide a stronger platform for Australian children. It states that, under a Rudd Labor Government, the early years will be a national priority.

A science-based framework for early childhood policy: using evidence to improve outcomes in learning, behavior, and health for vulnerable children

Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University, National Forum on Early Childhood Program Evaluation (U.S.), National Scientific Council on the Developing Child (U.S.)
Cambridge, Mass. : Center on the Developing Child, Harvard University, 2007.
"We describe in this report the process by which brain architecture is formed in very young children, with special attention to the important influence of early experiences on the production of a weak or sturdy foundation for future development, and integrate this scientific knowledge with the identification of those factors from the program evaluation literature that appear to offer the best course toward positive outcomes for children. We believe that this combination of neuroscience, child development research, and program evaluation data can provide an informed and pragmatic framework for those engaged in policy design and implementation. This paper builds on a process of systematic analysis that began with the publication in 2000 of a landmark report by the National Academy of Sciences entitled 'From Neurons to Neighborhoods: The Science of Early Childhood Development' ..."

Child development and social policy : knowledge for action

Aber J
Washington, D.C. : American Psychological Association, c2007.

Council of Australian Governments' National Reform Agenda: Victoria's plan to improve outcomes in early childhood.

Victoria. Dept. of the Premier and Cabinet., Victoria. Dept. of Human Services, Victoria. Dept. of Treasury and Finance, Victoria. Dept. of Education
Melbourne : Dept. of Premier and Cabinet, 2007.
"On 10 April 2007, Victoria released its plan for improving outcomes in early childhood. The paper sets out a ten year vision for the Victorian and Commonwealth Governments to work together to: improve antenatal services; strengthen the health, development and learning of all children from birth to five years; enhance the provision of early childhood education and care services in Victoria; and improve the early years workforce."

Smarten up the parents: whose agendas are we serving? Governing parents and children through the Smart Population Foundation Initiative in Australia.

Millei Z and Lee L
Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood v. 8 no. 3 Sep 2007 208-221
This article critiques the underlying basis of the Smart Population Foundation Initiative, which is an Australian government program established to improve child well being by disseminating information to parents and promoting good parenting. The authors argue that it fosters only one way of being a 'good' and 'responsible' parent, which denies alternative interpretations of parenting. The article discusses early childhood policy in Australia, family values and dominant culture, governmentality, the history of governing parents in Australia, the development of the Smart Population Foundation Initiative, constructing the 'smart' parent, and how these parents can be 'governed' through parenting science.

Starting strong II : early childhood education and care.

Bennett J and Tayler C
Paris, France : OECD, 2006.
The first 'Starting Strong' report was a review of early childhood education and care in 20 OECD countries, examining the social and economic factors that influence early childhood policy. 'Starting Strong II' reviews the progress made and new policy initiatives. The countries profiled are Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Korea, Mexico, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The book looks at: why countries invest in early childhood education and care; systemic and integrated approaches to early childhood education and care policy; partnership with the education system; universal approaches to access, with particular attention to children in need of special support; substantial public investment in services and the infrastructure; participatory approaches to quality improvement and assurance; training and working conditions for early childhood education and care staff; attention to data collection and monitoring; and research and evaluation.

The implementation of Families First NSW: process lessons from the first four years.

Fisher K, Thomson C and Valentine K
Australian Journal of Early Childhood v. 31 no. 1 Mar 2006 11-19
Families First is a NSW Government strategy that aims to improve the effectiveness of early intervention services supporting families and communities to care for children. Its implementation is the joint responsibility of the five NSW Human Services agencies: the NSW departments of Community Services (DoCS); Ageing Disability and Home Care (DADHC); Education and Training (DET); Housing; and NSW Health through Area Health Services. Area Reviews are one element of the Families First evaluation process. The reviews focus on the experiences of individual areas during the implementation of the strategy. They were not designed to evaluate individual services but to garner generalisable lessons for future implementation. This article sets out four categories of implementation lessons from the Area Reviews, relating to managing systems change, a systems approach to early intervention and prevention, family services system capacity, and Indigenous participation. These lessons reflect the challenges faced and achievements made in each of the three Families First Areas to improve the coordination of the service network and increase the provision of services for early intervention and prevention.

Connecting the science of child development to public policy

Huston A
Ann Arbor, Mich. : Society for Research in Child Development, 2005.

The child and family policy divide: tensions, convergence and rights

Henricson C and Bainham A
York England : Joseph Rowntree Foundation, 2005.
"This study examines the child and family policy divide - the nature of the interests involved, its causes and consequences - and formulates possible resolutions to the policy, administrative and legal difficulties emerging in this area. It assesses the relationship between child and family policy, considering trends associated with the pivotal [British] Children Act 1989, and assessing its consequences in the context of recent thinking and developments."

Maintaining an agenda for children: the role of data in linking policy, politics and outcomes.

Goldfield S and Oberklaid F
Medical Journal of Australia v. 183 no. 4 Aug 2005 209-211
There is growing recognition in Australia of the importance of early childhood to later health and well being, with developments such as the National Agenda for Early Childhood and the National Public Health Action Plan for Children. In order to sustain a policy agenda for children and improve long-term outcomes, the authors state that what is needed is timely, comprehensive and accurate indicators and data on child health, development and well being. Building this evidence requires a national monitoring and surveillance system that involves more than aggregating or linking existing data. Steps to building a national system are: to agree on key indicators of child health, development and well being for regular reporting, to research a comprehensive set of indicators for each domain and ascertain data gaps, and to ensure development and coordination of data relevant to policy making.

Putting children first: the next steps.

Melbourne, Vic : Victorian Government, 2004
In September 2004, the Premier's Children's Advisory Committee (PCAC) presented its report and recommendations on: the provision of childcare for Victorian families; the implementation of children first policy initiatives; the linkages and relevant transitions between maternal and child health services, childcare, preschool and early school years; and, the contemporary focus of maternal and child health and parenting services for Victorian families. This document is the Victorian Government's response to the PCAC report. It announces some major changes to coordinate children's services in Victoria and the appointment of a new Minister and the establishment of a new Office for Children.

Joining the dots: a new vision for Victoria's children: report to the Premier of Victoria.

Victoria. Premier's Children's Advisory Committee
Melbourne, Vic : Premier's Children's Advisory Committee, 2004
Victoria invests more than $500 million in children's services each year and has an established infrastructure that provides a high level of service. The Government's objective is to ensure that development and learning are optimised for all children from pregnancy through transition to school (0-8 years of age). To assist the Government in this aim, the Premier's Children's Advisory Committee was formed to advise on the relevant issues and make recommendations on: the provision of childcare for Victorian families; the implementation of children first policy initiatives; the linkages and relevant transitions between maternal and child health services, childcare, preschool and early school years; and, the contemporary focus of maternal and child health and parenting services for Victorian families. This is the report of that committee.
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